Alaska backs federal lawsuit to block distribution of abortion pill
February 15, 2023
WASHINGTON — Attorneys general representing nearly two dozen Republican states, including Alaska, are backing a lawsuit that would remove the abortion pill from throughout the United States after more than two decades, eliminating the option even in states where abortion access remains legal.
The state of Missouri filed its own brief in the case Friday while Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch filed a brief on behalf of her state as well as Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.
“The serious nature of the FDA’s unlawful actions, and the agency’s decision to invite lawbreaking by private parties and government actors across the country, favors broad relief,” the 22 Republican attorneys general wrote in the multi-state brief.
Regardless that the administration of Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy supports the attorneys general lawsuit, abortions are legal in Alaska. In 1997, the state Supreme Court recognized a fundamental right to “reproductive choice” under the Alaska Constitution.
The federal case against abortion pills — Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. U.S. Food and Drug Administration — was originally filed in the U.S. District Court for the North District of Texas in mid-November by Alliance Defending Freedom, an anti-abortion legal organization.
The lawsuit argues, on behalf of four anti-abortion medical organizations and four anti-abortion physicians, that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration exceeded its authority when it approved mifepristone to end pregnancies in 2000.
The prescription medication was originally approved for up to seven weeks into a pregnancy but is now approved for up to 10 weeks. It is used as part of a two-drug regimen that includes misoprostol as the second pharmaceutical.
The abortion pill, mifepristone, is legal at the federal level, though several GOP states have laws in place that restrict abortion to less than 10 weeks, setting up a dispute between state law and the federal government’s jurisdiction to approve pharmaceuticals.
If the judge doesn’t pull the abortion pill entirely, the anti-abortion organizations’ lawsuit argues to move the dosage and prescribing process back to how it worked before 2016, when the FDA made changes to its approval.
The U.S. Justice Department argued in its court filing the anti-abortion groups’ lawsuit “is extraordinary and unprecedented.”
“Plaintiffs have pointed to no case, and the government has been unable to locate any example, where a court has second-guessed FDA’s safety and efficacy determination and ordered a widely available FDA-approved drug to be removed from the market — much less an example that includes a two-decade delay,” wrote attorneys for the U.S. Justice Department.
The Republican attorneys general said in their briefs that “while the FDA is authorized to evaluate new drugs for safety and effectiveness, states are primarily responsible for protecting the health and welfare of their citizens.”
The judge in the lawsuit, Trump appointee Matthew Joseph Kacsmaryk, could rule on whether to pull mifepristone from the market as soon as this month.
Any ruling is likely to be appealed to the conservative-leaning 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and could eventually find itself in the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Alaska Beacon is an independent, donor-funded news organization. Alaskabeacon.com.